A Book of Hallucinations, Drug Addiction, Missing Persons, and More
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Emma Starling returns to her small hometown, Everton, New Hampshire, to help care for her dad. As straightforward as that is, this book quickly goes in lots of directions, all of which were interesting.
- Emma was born with the spiritual gift of healing, charismata iamaton. Supposedly, the midwife who delivered her was cured of sciatica just from having touched the baby’s hands.
- With this background, young-adult Emma is off to UCLA for med school. But, she returns home with hopes of curing her father, even though her gift has waned in recent years.
- Meanwhile, the dad has a mysterious brain disease. Among other things, he hallucinates, seeing animals indoors. He also sees – and hangs out with – the ghost of a long dead man, Ernest Harold Baynes.
- This is an historical novel and Ernest Harold Baynes is “the real-life Dr. Doolittle of New Hampshire.” He lived from 1868-1925.
- Baynes – in his life – was the naturalist for a 26,000-acre park stocked with animals imported from all over the world. It was called Corbin Park and/or Blue Mountain Forest Association and was in Newport, New Hampshire. It was open only to members, all purported to be millionaires. (This information is given at the end of the book as the author talks about her research for the book.)
- During Emma’s absence from Everton, her brother struggled with drug addiction and was in rehab twice.
- Emma knew about her brother while in California, but she did not know about her best friend from high school, Crystal, who is missing and presumed dead of an overdose. Emma’s dad, however, has never stopped hunting for Crystal.
- We learn early on that Emma has actually dropped out of medical school and therefore she is able to stay in Everton for the long term. Thus, she gets a job teaching fifth graders who figure into the story as well.
- She also joins her dad in searching for Crystal.
- If this isn’t enough to keep the reader’s interest, let me tell you about the omniscient narrator. I couldn’t quite tell if the narrator was one person or a chorus of people, but either way, they were dead folks talking to us from the local cemetery. Thus, we learn some of the ins and out of being dead such as what happens to the buried vs the cremated.
I love books that tell how things work in the afterlife and I wish the author had explored that further. Other than that complaint, I liked the book and thought the author did a fine job of juggling her many plot lines!
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